Date: 1st century

Geography: Peru

Culture: Nasca

Medium: Ceramic

Dimensions: H.17 3/4 x Diam. 10 in. (45.1 x 25.4 cm)

Classification: Ceramics-Musical Instruments

Credit Line: The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Wielgus, 1964

Accession Number: 1978.412.111


Ceramic drums with a bulbous sounding chamber were made in southern Peru in the centuries around the turn of the first millennium. Held under the arm when played, the drum had a drumhead stretched across the opening at the bottom. The body of this drum is decorated with a mythical being whose large, staring eyes are circled with killer whales, or orcas, in profile. The orca is the largest sea predator in the region and was much respected throughout coastal Peru. Here, each orca includes a human hand with four squared-off, straight fingers like the fingers of the drum figure itself. The rotund figure, sitting with legs drawn up underneath him, has a snake issuing from beneath his chin and a tool in each hand. His hair is knotted on his forehead and held in place by a narrow band; in back the hair is depicted as snakes.